October 3rd, 2022, Gainesville, FL – The University of Florida announced that it was selected to receive a $2,700,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to accelerate the large-scale development and deployment of concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technology for industrial decarbonization and electrical power generation and storage. This project will develop a solar reactor powered by high temperature solar thermal energy to produce hydrogen, an important energy vector for our transition to a renewable energy infrastructure.
Production costs of green hydrogen, i.e., H2 from renewable resources as opposed to fossil such as natural gas, remain a major barrier to wide scale adoption by the transportation sector. Our team aims to improve the efficiency and cost of solar thermochemical hydrogen production by taking advantage of new “redox materials” that can be integrated with efficient solar collectors developed by industry. “By leveraging the technological expertise of our industrial partner, Synhelion, we are able to integrate new materials into solar thermal processes which have the potential to lower H2 production costs”, says project Principle Investigator Jonathan Scheffe, of U. Florida’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.
Today, most of the world’s hydrogen production comes from natural gas, a process that, while cheap, does not address the United States and world’s energy and climate concerns. This project will potentially enable large scale production of “green” hydrogen from solar energy by leveraging concentrating solar power (CSP) infrastructure and the heat of the sun to split H2O into H2 and O2. The produced H2 can then be stored, transported and utilized on demand, for example in transportation sectors that are focused on decarbonizing their industries.
The University of Florida was selected as a part of the SETO Fiscal Year 2022 CSP Research, Development, and Demonstration funding program, an effort to lower the cost of CSP technologies and create new market opportunities for the industry, with the goal of enabling substantial deployment of CSP to decarbonize the electricity grid and energy system. The University of Florida is one of several projects that will enable concentrating solar-thermal technologies with thermal energy storage to be integrated with high-temperature industrial processes to produce economically important products, like cement, fuels, and other chemicals.
Our team from the University of Florida is partnering with Synhelion, a Swiss-based company whose mission is to produce synthetic fuels from solar energy. With the financial resources provided by the DOE SETO, academic expertise of the University of Florida and industrial experience of Synhelion, our team is well poised to advance the state of the art and decrease the costs of solar-derived H2.
About the Solar Energy Technologies Office
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports research and development across the solar energy spectrum to drive innovation, lower costs, and support an equitable transition to a decarbonized economy. Learn more at energy.gov/solaroffice.